Sleeping for science

Charlotte Ury, Opinion Editor

Sitting covered in wires and monitors and holding one hand in ice-cold water was not how I thought I would spend my Tuesday afternoon. Neither was counting down from 6,327 by 7s, having pressure put on my hand, giving a presentation on the spot, and being poked many times with small blunt needles.

But such is the life of a high school sophomore in a sleep study. Or, more specifically, the life of a sophomore in a study about the impact of sleep on abdominal pain in teenagers. 

My cousin, a full-time nurse at Seattle Children’s Hospital, knew a nurse who needed teenagers for a sleep study and invited me to sign up. Due to Covid-19, I had a lot of spare time, and because I would be getting paid to do the study, I had no hesitation in volunteering.

While I never actually ended up sleeping in a lab room, I did end up wearing a watch for two weeks that I would click to signify when I went to bed and when I woke up. Having the watch would’ve been convenient…if it wasn’t in military time.

Then the day arrived—the final in-person lab visit. I nervously showed up for the visit, and before I could even say “hello, please don’t torture me,” I had a small monitor snugly fit around my waist, along with smaller wires attached to my skin. I did have a lot of fun sending a picture to my sister with the caption “in the hospital :(” though (just to keep her on her toes).

Instead of starting with physical tasks, I was shocked when the lab instructor asked me to give a five-minute presentation about “why I should be liked” and pretend I was in front of a new class. Naturally, I bombed, and the poor camera that was recording me got a five-minute video of rambling “ummms” (although at the end of the lab visit, I would find out that the camera was fake, and I was never being recorded). I thankfully got a small break with a ten-minute nature video that was more boring than it had the right to be. Then we were right back to exhausting mental tasks like counting down from atrociously high numbers aloud. 

After the mental tasks, we finally got to the more physical tasks I was the most worried about. I actually ended up finding them much more enjoyable than the mental ones. Plunging my hand into ice water was better than shamefully facing an imaginary class. The time passed quickly, and before I knew it, the 90-minute lab visit was up, and the study I had been a part of for around six months was over.

As I drove home, I realized that I had actually learned a lot in between the severe boredom, stress, and pain. I understood more about how experimentations worked in real life at a level much larger than any science book could show me and also simply how labs could be set up, coordinated with, and how they could use the research and turn it into practical knowledge. 

If you’re ever given the chance to be a part of a study, I would highly encourage it! You might learn more about experiments- and mental math.